First Fallen

The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero

Meg Groeling

Groeling's well-written biography is grounded in years of examining archival resources, diaries, personal letters, newspapers, and other accounts. In the sixty intervening years since the last portrait of Ellsworth was written, new information has arisen that gives readers and historians a better understanding of the Ellsworth phenomenon.
Date Published :
October 2020
Publisher :
Savas Beatie
Illustration :
1 map, 30 images
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781611215373
Pages : 288
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order
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$29.95

Overview
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Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the American Civil War. When it happened, on May 24, 1861, the entire North was aghast. Ellsworth was a celebrity and had just finished traveling with his famed and entertaining U. S. Zouave Cadets drill team. They had performed at West Point, in New York City, and for President Buchanan before returning home to Chicago. Ellsworth then joined his friend and law mentor Abraham Lincoln in his quest for the presidency. When Lincoln put out the call for troops after Fort Sumter was fired upon, Ellsworth responded. Within days he was able to organize over a thousand New York firefighters into a regiment of volunteers.

Was it youthful enthusiasm or a lack of formal training that resulted in his death? There is evidence on both sides. What is definite is that the Lincolns rushed to the Navy Yard to view the body of the young man they had loved as a son. Mary Lincoln insisted that he lie in state in the East Room of their home. The elite of New York brought flowers to the Astor House en memoriam. Six members of the 11th New York accompanied their commander’s coffin. When the young colonel’s remains were finally interred in the Hudson View Cemetery, the skies opened up. A late May afternoon thunderstorm broke out in the middle of the procession, referred to as “tears from God himself.” Only eight weeks later, the results of the battle of First Bull Run knocked Ellsworth out of the headlines. The trickle of blood had now become a torrent, not to end for four more years of war.

Groeling’s well-written biography is grounded in years of examining archival resources, diaries, personal letters, newspapers, and other accounts. In the sixty intervening years since the last portrait of Ellsworth was written, new information has arisen that gives readers and historians a better understanding of the Ellsworth phenomenon. The author’s interwoven accounts of John Hay, George Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln, and the Lincoln family put Ellsworth clearly at the forefront of the excitement that led up to the election of a president.

First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero examines every facet of Ellsworth’s complex, fascinating life. It is the story of many young men who fought and died for the Union. Elmer, however, was the first and -according to those who remember him - perhaps the best.

About The Author
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Meg Groeling is a contributing writer for the blog Emerging Civil War. A writer, teacher, and curriculum developer since 1987, she has taught at both the elementary and middle school levels for more than thirty years. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a B.A. in liberal studies and has been involved in continuing education for her entire career; she is currently a master’s candidate at American Public University, majoring in military history with a Civil War emphasis. She lives in Hollister, California, in a lovely 1928 bungalow covered with roses outside and books inside.

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